Hello and I hope all is well. I was recently introduced to your website. Wow! Everything I've looked for about helmets in the past and then some in one place! One word: Magnificent! OK, and now to my question. I have a Dallas Cowboys Riddell VSR-2 that is about 8-9 years old. What is the best product to use to clean the shell and get that "game day shine"? Again, incredible website and keep up the good work! Thank you for your time,
Dear Mark,We are most flattered by your compliments and they are sincerely appreciated. Everyone at HELMET HUT takes the responsibility of providing the most accurate and well-made helmets to our many customers seriously. Because we get the same enjoyment and excitement from helmets that our readers do, we want to present interesting and what we think are useful bits of information on the site. Your comments and others like it remind us of that responsibility and of course, are very gratifying. When you have a wonderful Cowboys helmet such as yours or one of HELMET HUT's authentic reproductions, you will want to maintain its finish and long-lasting beauty. Our staff approached the experts for the "right" answers and we were fortunate to have a number of university and NFL equipment supervisors describe their cleaning procedures. Surprisingly, the approach by most of them was a simple one. The Riddell VSR series of helmets and the newer models, can best be cleaned with soap and water. The two comments most often repeated were to "have the player take his helmet into the shower with him after each game and practice, and rinse it out with the same water and soap the player is showering with." The other was to "get the details of proper helmet care from the manufacturer."The suspension model helmets such as those offered by HELMET HUT should not be taken into the shower! With the "web style" helmets, any cotton-based webbing material may degrade and "rot" ; metal screws or rivets that secure the webbing to the shell might rust; if corrosion of the metal components were to occur, the resultant roughened surface would have a high probability of cutting the webbing. Our friends at The Southern Impact Research Center who do the testing for helmet safety standards for the industry stressed the point that if some of the modern, currently available rust and corrosion-proof materials were used in the manufacturing process of the suspension-era style helmets, one would not have the same concerns thus the problem of corrosion of the webbing material after repeated and direct exposure to water was not a design, but rather a materials-related issue. A materials engineer made the observation that the suspension-type of helmets would dry faster than the modern ones so washing should not have been a major concern. "Clean webbing was less likely to rot than sweaty webbing so if the suspension system was going to be wet in either case, one would be better off getting some of the bacteria out." A number of equipment management supervisors use a commercial cleaning product like Windex which has isopropanol, or what is commonly referred to as "rubbing alcohol" as its active ingredient, or 409 to clean the inside of the helmet.To clean and maintain that shiny appearance of the helmet shell so that it can be proudly displayed and enjoyed for many years, the helmet manufacturers do not recommend the use of commercial plastic cleaners or polishes. One of HELMET HUT's friends in the industry made the statement that if after cleaning, "someone thinks they have screwed up their helmets the following rules of thumb are of value. If the cleaning agent ends in anything that sounds like 'een', like gasoline, toluene, benzene etc. or if it ends in 'one' as in zone, like acetone, methyl ethyl ketone you have probably screwed them up beyond repair. If the chemical ends in 'ol' like alcohol, you might get way with it." Under no circumstances should a product with an abrasive agent be used on a painted helmet surface. One equipment supervisor told us that "the cheapest way to keep our helmets clean and good-looking" was to use one of the commercially available glass-cleaning products such as Windex, after external dirt was removed from the helmet with a clean cloth. There are a number of commercial products that clean and wax the helmet in one application, providing a protective wax layer that theoretically makes for a safer helmet when used in play, as reduced surface friction in turn reduces contact time upon the helmet surface. One high-profile program uses the helmet manufacturer's cleaning product and then has his staff use car wax on the morning of game day to provide a shine and some protection on the shells. One university utilizes a silicone containing cleaning product that provides the benefits of waxing.The HELMET HUT staff members have their favorite products but removing dust with a clean cloth, dry or wet, and using any of the widely available non-abrasive surface cleaners and then drying with a clean cloth will allow a beautiful display for the lifetime of your helmet.
Dear Dr. Del Rye,I think that some of your facemasks are just great and wish I was old enough to have actually seen them used on the field. Looking through your gallery of masks and helmets, I especially like the Lucite masks on the Y.A. Tittle 49er helmet and the one on the Otto Graham Browns helmet. I was wondering how come Lucite was used as a facemask material. Any information you can give me would be appreciated. Yours Truly,
Mark M. in California
Dear Mark,For the younger generations, the Lucite masks and some of the more unusual early model facemasks like the Marietta Clip-On Lucite mouth protection mask with breathing hole are artifacts that have never been seen "in person" and only in photos. However, at the time of their use, they were considered state of the art and a pioneering step forward in face, mouth, teeth, and nose protection. The Marietta mask photo below was featured in our HELMET NEWS article of December 2001 and one member of our HELMET HUT staff recalled wearing one for two seasons of youth football and how difficult it was to breathe while wearing it. Supposedly for tooth protection, it actually did little as it was often pushed into the sensitive tissues of the face upon contact, frequently causing as much damage as it protected against.
You noted the HELMET HUT displays of Tittle and Graham and I would remind you to check the beautiful reproduction of the Art Donovan Baltimore Colt helmet from the 1954 and '55 seasons displayed in the NFL-COLTS section, another example of the classic Lucite mask. Now for the surprising news regarding the Lucite mask. The written description in The Official NFL Encyclopedia states, "When Joe Perry of the San Francisco 49ers suffered a broken jaw in 1954, he wore a face mask manufactured of clear lucite plastic. Lucite, however, frequently shattered and it was banned." Frequent descriptions of "Lucite facemasks" used in 1954 and less often in 1955 abound in the football literature however, Lucite WAS NOT the material used as a face guard material! Lucite or methyl methacrylate polymer was a DuPont discovery that was for lack of a better description, made "by mistake" in 1931 while investigating the technology used for ammonia production. It was desired because of its clear appearance and strength and was in demand by the U.S. Armed Forces during the Second World War "for use in windshields, nose cones, and gunner turrets for bombers and fighter planes." While placed into popular use for jewelry and some furniture items it was never as popular as a Rohm And Haas version of methyl methacrylate called Plexiglas. This is what was used in football faceguards, and the first one was invented by Mr. Joe Adams who passed away only a few years ago. Mr. Adams was a Cookeville, Tennessee businessman and plastics manufacturer who was contacted by Ted Thaxton, a gridder for Tennessee Tech, also located in Cookeville. Thaxton wanted mouth protection so that he could avoid injury, a very important requirement for a music major. Adams developed the very first "Thermo plastic" face mask, a simple half-helix design and this original is still on display in the Cookeville corporate office.
The masks that were used by a number of collegiate and professional teams and individual players was in fact, the Rohm And Haas Plexiglas and not Lucite. Rather quickly, it was discovered that this was not an ideal material for a football facemask, nor was any kind of polymer. Some continued to be used for youth football masks but were quickly eliminated from higher levels of competition due to the frequency of breakage. Even at the youth league level it was determined that the failure rate dictated that these masks be changed every year and certainly by every second season. The reason that polymer is not suitable for football mask application is that any polymer, no matter how good it may be, is negatively affected by bending stresses and nicks to its surface. This means they will eventually fail and there is no way to predict when that will occur.
Dear Doctor:I hope you will have the answer to my question as a loyal Kansas Jayhawk graduate and fan. I noticed that you featured the Kansas State helmets not too long ago. I will refrain from making any negative comments about our in state rivals and will admit that the helmets you made for them look really good. Kansas has a better football history with greats like Hadl, Sayers, and Cromwell and we have a good football history site on the official university website. This site mentioned that we were still wearing leather helmets in the mid-1950's. Can you give me some insight to the reasoning behind that and can I ask when our Jayhawk helmets will be shown? I like the many college helmets, I just feel that we deserve at least the exposure that K-State got. Thank you very much.Brad, Wichita, KS
Dear Brad,HELMET HUT won't take sides in the K-State vs. Kansas debate as both universities have wonderful athletic and academic traditions. We will however agree with you that the authentic reproductions of the Kansas State Wildcat helmets surprised even some of our most experienced and long-time employees. The variety of designs and decals and the great colors made for an interesting and exciting collection. I'm sure that the Kansas football collection would be just as nice and promote many wonderful memories for our many Jayhawk friends, but a company cannot "just make and sell" university related goods as there is a specific licensing procedure that must be satisfied between the school and service provider. We would like nothing better than to offer the awesome collection of Kansas football headgear and present its history. A look at our College Section notes an authentic reproduction of Gale Sayers' helmet that is fantastic.
Now, about those leather helmets. Kansas decided to change football coaches after the 1953 season. Head Coach Jules Verne Sikes, who in his previous five years had done quite well, went only 2-8 in 1953. They looked to Chuck Mather, reputed to be the country's premiere high school coach as their next head man. Mather had led Ohio's Washington High School, in Massillon, and usually referred to as "Massillon High School", to an unbelievable six season record of 57-3 and six consecutive State Championships. Seen as a "bold experiment" at the time, the promotion of a high school coach directly to a collegiate head coaching job was considered to be very forward-thinking and it was a decision made by University Chancellor Franklin Murphy. Because his Massillon High School Tigers had worn leather helmets, Mather ordered the Jayhawks to switch from the plastic models used prior to his arrival, to leather, much to the chagrin of the training and equipment staffs. Having the helmets in a bright yellow color to "represent the beak of the Jayhawk" just made things worse. As was noted in a Lawrence News Journal article, "... KU on the road had all-white uniforms that looked like long underwear tucked into pants and shoes. That led to some of the media representatives making up a tune: 'Fight, fight, fight/for the good old yellow and white./Don't get in a lather/'cause we're led by Chuckie Mather.'" Combined with a record of 0-10, the poor 1954 Kansas football team brought scorn and ridicule upon themselves. The unsightly all-yellow headgear proved to be a safety issue also. "The leather helmets were a disaster. Long-time KU trainer Dean Nesmith tried to convince Mather that the softer leather helmets couldn't take the kind of punishment being dealt out at the major college level. When several players staggered off the field with a caved-in hat and a concussion, the plastic helmets were ordered."Thus ended the short-lived experiment at Kansas, the plastic-to-leather-to plastic episode. Unfortunately, Mather's reign featured a few other uniform gaffes best saved for another discussion. In addition to his uniform-related difficulties, Mather's teams could not win and his four-year record of 11-26-3 ended in his firing. Kansas of course, has featured a number of excellent players and successful teams since then and continues their fine tradition under Head Coach Mark Mangino.This above 1955 photo shows a Kansas player still outfitted with a leather helmet.